Crowded and cramped.
Awkward moment, attempting to close my ears to the crescendo of conversation between a man and a woman sitting inches from where I stood waiting for my Chai Tea Latte.
I would like to have poked my fingers in my ears and sang, “la-la-la-la-la-la,” to drown out their argument. But maybe that would be even more rude than eavesdropping.
So I heard it. All of it. It was clear their disagreement was work related; they did not give off the vibe of romance. (For some reason, this eases my guilt about overhearing.) They were heatedly trading jabs about the definition of being “50% involved in the business.” She defended herself. He looked defeated and befuddled.
Without transcribing all the dialogue (what’s worse – spying on someone or repeating what you heard?!), the gist of it is that they are business partners with a 50-50 agreement. I’m sure that means they each put equal amounts of money into the business. But their impasse was not about something as easy as money. It was about how to measure one’s investment of energy, intelligence, and caring.
It’s a good point. If you and I go in together, halfsies, on a business, how do we know that our commitment to and regard for the business is perceived equally by one another? You could spend 12 hours a day working on “our” business, and I could spend 6. Does this mean I love it less? Maybe, maybe not. I could be the steadfast first responder to our customers, while you faithfully manage the administrative underpinnings such as invoicing, financial management and efficient operations… who’s to say which one of us is “more” involved?
Well, I picked up my Chai and fantasized about inviting these stressed partners into a coaching session. And here is THE number one key to strong partnerships that I would want to help my new coffee shop clients discover:
Work on the relationship more than you work on the business.
I know. You and your partner got together to create a successful business, and that requires you to tend to your products, services, clients, finances, staffing and everything else that goes into running a flourishing business.
Perhaps you have assumed that the business is the primary focus and the relationship will take care of itself. Wrong.
I have seen very well-thought-out business ventures unravel simply because the partners could not work well together. It’s fine to disagree – but how do you regard each other while disagreeing? It’s fine to get mad – but how do you hold a direct conversation with your partner without creating a mess? It’s fine to develop new personal goals – but how do you go about pursuing your own dreams without stepping on your partner’s toes and wrecking the existing business?
Sticky situations like these can absolutely be processed in a healthy and productive way. But only if the foundation of your relationship is so solid, nothing can rock it. And that demands working on the relationship first, the business second.
Skills you must develop as a business partner:
- Agreeing on how you will deal with disagreements – before you have one.
- Understanding that when the relationship is fed… it will, in turn, feed your business.
- Being brutally direct in communications, no hidden agendas – in a style that fuels the conversation, rather than shuts it down.
- Honoring your partner’s participation in the business – fully knowing what is at stake for them personally if the business succeeds or fails.
- Willingness to take the time needed to nurture the relationship – without resentment.
In some ways, business partnerships are actually more work than going it alone. But the rewards are immeasurable. With a partner at your side, you will raise the bar and play a much bigger game. You’ll get more done because you’ve got accountability and someone who can do the things you are not so good at. You are constantly stretched into fresh ways of looking at things – this can feel annoying at times, but mostly, you will grow as a human being and as a business owner.
So, take your business partner out for a cup of tea. Hire me to coach your partnership. Work on your relationship – it is a sacred trust that requires tending. I can’t wait to overhear your healthy, productive conversation.